IntroductionThe Gene Technology Regulator (the Regulator), as a Principal Officer (prescribed authority or an Agency), is subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act). From 1 May 2011 Agencies are required to comply with the Information Publication Scheme (IPS) established by the FOI Act. The IPS promotes transparency and a proactive approach to publishing government information.
The IPS consists of the following three elements (IPS Entry) and requires the Regulator to:
- publish an agency plan (subsections 8(1) and 8(2)(a))
- publish specified categories of information (subsection 8(2))
- proactively publish other information (subsection 8(4)).
The Regulator, a statutory office holder, is responsible for administering the national regulatory system for gene technology. The Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) has been established within the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing to provide administrative support to the Regulator in the performance of his functions under the Gene Technology Act 2000.
PurposeIn accordance with subsection 8(1) of the FOI Act, this plan outlines how the Regulator, with the support of the staff of the OGTR, proposes to meet the IPS requirements. It outlines what information the Regulator proposes to publish, how the information will be published and the approach and mechanisms that the OGTR has in place to assist the Regulator to proactively identify and disclose information to the public, as specified in sections 8(1), 8(2) and 8(4) of the FOI Act. The plan also aims to strengthen the existing openness and transparency of the national scheme by providing an additional platform for consultation and contribution by the public.
Objectives and guiding principlesThe Regulator’s objectives in relation to the plan are to outline appropriate mechanisms and procedures to:
- comply with the IPS requirements from 1 May 2011
- keep the IPS Entry accurate, up-to-date and complete
- publish additional information beyond that required by the FOI Act
- take steps to make the existing information more accessible to the public
- agency plan and IPS compliance should further the objects of the FOI Act
- information published under the IPS is easily discoverable, understandable and machine-readable
- published information should be accessible – in particular, it should meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (version 2.0) (WCAG 2.0)
- adopt the publication framework set out in the WCAG 2.0 to ensure a consistent look and feel in IPS compliance
- published information, so far as it is reasonable and practicable, be made available for re-use on open licensing terms, so as to enhance the economic and social value of the information
- published information should be reviewed regularly for accuracy, currency and completeness
Establishing and administering the Regulator’s IPS EntryThe Regulator, supported by the OGTR senior executives, IPS coordinator and other senior OGTR officers, has prepared the IPS Entry. The information/documents required under IPS Entry are already available elsewhere on the OGTR website and the existing OGTR resources are allocated to establish and administer the Regulator’s IPS Entry. The Regulator has nominated a senior executive of OGTR (Branch Head, Regulatory Practice and Compliance) to manage the IPS Entry on a continuing basis and be responsible for leading the work on IPS compliance and implementing the 2010 FOI reforms. A timetable for meeting compliance with IPS, including review of IPS entries is provided at Annex A of this plan.
The Regulator has well established practices and mechanisms for publishing and reviewing information on the OGTR website which will ensure timely publication and review of IPS entries for accuracy, currency and completeness. Additionally, information will be monitored and amended as required. However, confidential commercial information (declared under the Gene Technology Act 2000) and personal information (covered by the Privacy Act) are exempted from publication. As the Regulator is already providing free access to information published on the OGTR website, the information/documents under IPS Entry will also be made freely available to public.
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IPS information architectureThe ‘About the OGTR’ page in the OGTR website is the main portal from which the members of the public can access the Regulator’s IPS. The IPS link opens a new web page called ‘IPS Entry’ and under this heading the elements of IPS including this plan (subsections 8(1) and 8(2)(a)), specified categories of information (subsection 8(2)) and other information (subsection 8(4)) are placed on separate links (subject to the timeframe at Annex A). To ensure that the IPS Entry is easily discoverable, the Regulator is alerting the public of this plan along with other elements of the IPS Entry on the ‘What’s New’ page of the website. The Regulator is also seeking community feedback on the plan over a four-week period.
The OGTR web manager ensures that the IPS Entry is included on the site map and the already existing search function is made available for searching for information/documents under the IPS Entry. Any new additions or changes to the IPS Entry will be alerted to the public on the ‘What’s New’ page of the website. The OGTR’s established client register can also enhance access to new information by members of public.
All documents/information under the IPS Entry and other documents on the OGTR website, to the extent possible, will conform to WCAG 2.0 in accordance with the timetable set out at Annex A. Where a document is not available in an accessible format (HTML or pdfs with metadata), the Regulator will endeavour to provide such documents in an accessible format on request to the OGTR (via the toll free number or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Regulator will use the mechanism already established for inviting community feedback on the IPS Entry and compliance via the ‘What’s New’ page of the OGTR website. The OGTR senior executive will evaluate and respond to the feedback received.
Information required to be published:
- Agency plan (subsection 8(2)(a)) – this document
- Structure of the Agency (subsection 8(2)(b))
- Functions of the Agency, including decision making powers that affect members of the public (subsection 8(2)(c))
- Statutory appointments (subsection 8(2)(d))
- Annual reports and other responses to the Parliament (subsection 8(2)(e))
- Consultation arrangements (subsection 8(2)(f))
- Routinely requested information and disclosure log (see Annex B) for information released in connection with FOI requests (subsection 8(2)(g)) and section 11C)
- Routinely provided information in response to requests and orders from the Parliament (subsection 8(2)(h))
- Contact details of OGTR (subsection 8(2)(i))
- Operational information (subsection 8(2)(j))
Other information to be published under the IPSThe Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) recommends the publication of ‘optional information’ to extend the pro-disclosure culture for documents held by agencies, consistent with section 8(4) of the FOI Act.
As explained above, the Regulator already publishes a range of information as required by the gene technology legislation, as well as other information which goes beyond what is required. This is consistent with the pro-disclosure culture desired by the IPS.
The other information that is already published on the OGTR website includes notifications, calls for public comments, application summaries and documents supporting decisions on licence applications. These will be assessed and modified where necessary to ensure that they meet the standards of the IPS (subject to timeframe at Annex A). The OGTR will endeavour to meet the standards of the WCAG 2.0 in all the documents published on the website within the timeframe set out at Annex A.
Freedom of Information disclosure logThe Regulator is required by the Freedom of Information Act 1982 section 11C to publish a disclosure log on the OGTR website. The disclosure log lists information which has been released in response to an FOI access request (see Annex B). The Regulator must publish this information within ten working days of giving the FOI applicant access to the information (subsection 11C(6)). This requirement has been applied since 1 May 2011.
Freedom of Information Disclosure Log
IPS compliance reviewTo begin with, the ‘What’s New’ page of the OGTR website will include an invitation for comments on the Regulator’s plan. The OGTR will ensure that any comments made by the public will be taken into account to enhance the plan, accessibility and usability of the IPS.
The Regulator with the support of the OGTR will review and revise the plan annually to overlap with the business planning process. The OGTR will also review the operation of IPS Entry regularly in accordance with the guidelines provided by the Information Commissioner about IPS compliance review.
The Regulator will measure the performance/success of the IPS contribution by reference to feedback from the public, statistics on the number of visits to the web page or compliance review processes.
Timeframe for complying with the IPS (HTML)
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